Thursday, January 10, 2013

Interview with veteran TV actor Wilson Tsui: Finally ‘promoted’ to male lead

Here’s an interesting interview with another one of my long-time favorite veteran ‘green leaf’ actors (yes, I obviously have MANY of them) – Wilson Tsui.

Again, just like with many of the other veteran artists, I grew up watching Wilson in TVB series and to me, he has always been a solid actor. Interestingly enough, despite the more than 3 decades that he’s been with TVB, I really can’t remember too many of Wilson’s roles from the past decade – most of the roles that I remember most of his (and the ones that were most ‘impactful’) were from the 80s and 90s, which to me, shows how underutilized he was when he was the past few years especially.

And honestly, it’s truly sad that a talented actor has to work 33 years in order to get the chance to be a lead in a series when other so-called actors/actresses who can’t act to save their lives get to lead series almost immediately! (It’s the same situation with Wayne Lai, who was also mentioned in this interview – look at how long it took TVB to ‘recognize’ his talent? 20+ years!). When I hear stories like these, I can’t help but respect the dedication and passion that these artists have for their craft – I mean, unless you truly truly love what you do, how is it possible to continue persevering in such a harsh environment for 10, 15, 20, even 30 or 40 years without getting much in return? Most people would probably have quit and changed careers after 10 years if they were going absolutely nowhere in the environment they were in!

I’m not going to comment to much on the article as usual, since it pretty much speaks for itself – but one thing I do want to bring some attention to is the ‘unwritten rules’ part of the interview where Wilson describes how the decision to cast artists in particular roles generally falls into the hands of a few select people – he’s actually not the first one to talk about this, as there are quite a few other artists and behind-the-scenes people who’ve mentioned this in the past. (One of the more recent examples I can think of is former TVB scriptwriter Chow Yuk Ming revealing in a college seminar 2 years ago that TVB producers don’t always have a say in who gets cast in certain roles – even if the producer feels that a particular artist is ‘made’ for the role, they are sometimes ‘forced’ to use another less suitable artist for the role due to pressure from the higher ups…).

So basically, for those who were not sure if such ‘politics’ truly existed at TVB (or were unwilling to believe it before) – well, the answer is ‘yes’, such stuff actually does exist. Of course, TVB isn’t the only place where it happens and who’s to say that the same crap won’t happen in HKTV (CTI) in the future too once they become more established? All the more reason why there should be more TV stations in HK to provide more ‘options’ for not just us audiences, but also a ‘way out’ for artists like Wilson who can continue to do the job they like in an environment that’s better suited for them. I mean, honestly – people who work in every other occupation in HK have the ‘option’ to choose which company they would like to apply to and work for….why should TV actors/actresses in HK not have that same ‘right’??

Interview with veteran TV actor Wilson Tsui:  Finally ‘promoted’ to male lead

Source:  HK Channel

Translation:  llwy12

There’s a Chinese saying that goes something like this: ‘A fish that experiences different ponds becomes more fertile.’

In the 33 years that he worked for TVB, veteran actor Wilson Tsui (艾威) was only considered a ‘several hundred dollar per show’ green leaf king – at most. But 4 months ago, when he decided to ‘jump out of the pond’ and join rival station HKTV (formerly CTI), his ‘worth’ immediately increased tenfold and with barely a need for convincing, he has finally achieved a position that eluded him for years: leading male actor.

Throughout the ‘making’ of television history in the past few decades, many people have had important roles – examples in the recent decade include Ricky Wong (王維基), Wayne Lai (黎耀祥), Lee Tim Sing (李添勝), etc. The great effort and ‘fighting spirit’ of people like them have been an inspiration to many of the ‘small workers’ who desire to strive for the best and continue to struggle their way up to the top. Wilson Tsui is precisely one of these ‘small workers’ who received such ‘enlightenment’ – the birth of a new TV station will hopefully become one of those ‘once in a thousand years’ opportunities that can give many ‘small workers’ in the industry new hope and a chance to realize their dreams.

Currently, with the first dawn of this new era, 57 year old Wilson Tsui is finally able to realize a dream – that of becoming a lead actor.

Waiting quietly for talent to be recognized

Having taken the time to dress up and prepare for the interview, Wilson had an especially cheerful aura about him, a rare feeling of happiness and satisfaction that he hadn’t experienced in a while. Towards his new work environment and new job position, Wilson has nothing but praise: “There’s less pressure, more space, and lots of freedom – I’m very satisfied with the environment I’m in right now. Even though many of the people I currently work with are old colleagues whom I’m already familiar with, many things have changed and it’s because of these changes that I’m finally able to reach the ‘first line’ level -- I firmly believe that if I had remained in the ‘old world’ [at TVB], it would have been impossible for this [getting a lead role] to happen. Today, the ‘transformation’ I’ve experienced can be considered a success, but if I hadn’t taken that step [leaving TVB], I know that I would never get the opportunity to climb to this position and never would have a breakthrough.”

The people may be the same, but Wilson himself has definitely changed. Getting to ‘taste’ the feeling of being a ‘leading actor’ for the first time, Wilson expressed: “In the past, I was a ‘border’-line artist: not first line, nor second line either, but rather ‘stuck’ on the border between second and third line – if I didn’t leave, that would have been my ‘fate’ at TVB forever. So to me, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity – of course my goal is to get to ‘first line’, but even if that doesn’t exactly happen, at least the effort was made and I was given the opportunity. I guess you could say that at the current moment, my ‘dream’ has been realized, since in the new series Three Sides of Shape Doctors (三面形醫), I get to be one of the main doctors alongside Frankie Lam (林文龍) and John Chiang (姜大偉) – it may not be the main leading role, but at least it’s a leading role.”

When he was little, Wilson and his family lived in a flat right above the Hollywood Theatre, so watching movies became one of his favorite past-times. Being a super movie fan since childhood, it’s no surprise that over the years, he cultivated an interest in acting; in 1978, Wilson was accepted to TVB’s Acting Class – his classmates that year include Kent Tong (湯鎮業) and Liu Kai Chi (廖啟智). Reflecting on his years at TVB, Wilson expressed that his ‘golden opportunity’ period was very short-lived: “When I filmed Plain Love (情濃大地) with Gallen Lo (羅嘉良) and Eddie Cheung (張兆輝), I played the main villain and the reaction [from audiences] was pretty good – not sure why the momentum didn’t continue on in later series. Perhaps I was just lacking a person who understood me and could recognize the potential -- you know, like how Wayne [Lai] had Tim Gor [producer Lee Tim Sing] – someone who understood and was willing to continue working with you until you made it to the top and everyone else recognized the talent too. I seemed to lack this type of supportive ‘partner’.”

With his passive and introverted personality, Wilson expressed that at one point, he ‘forced’ himself to accept the many ‘unwritten rules’ that exist in the TV industry, but in the end, things didn’t turn out favorable: “Some producers dislike artists who try to ‘sell’ themselves, so most of the time, others do the ‘selling’ for the artists. One time, I found out there was a character that the producer wanted to cast me in, but because some people who didn’t like me had an ‘opinion’ about it, I ended up losing the opportunity. At TVB, the decision of who gets to play what type of characters is usually controlled by a select few people and over time, it’s really these few people who ‘call all the shots’ – if your viewpoint happens to be different from these select few or they don’t know you that well, that’s how a lot of the opportunities could be lost.”

Ambitious, hopes to have a hand in creating a miracle

Looking at some of the TV industry ‘success’ stories from the past years, definitely causes one to reflect: CTI chairman Ricky Wong started his telecom business from scratch and after building it into a successful empire, decides to sell his ‘son’ [the telecom business] in order to start a new venture of building a TV station; Wayne Lai, who started off as an unknown ‘kelefe’ actor, worked hard for decades to refine his acting and eventually climbed his way to the top, becoming 3-time TV King; even ‘golden’ producer Lee Tim Sing, who started as a lowly worker in the props department, slowly worked his way up and at one point, even served as TVB’s Head Director of Production [back in the late 80s/early 90s]. For Wilson, these types of ‘success’ stories are a source of inspiration and part of the reason why he deeply believes that ‘miracles’ do happen: “It’s just like winning the lottery – with some luck and these types of inspirational stories, it’s definitely motivation for ‘small workers’ like me to want to work hard and advance to that level. Sure, some people may feel that I’m being too ambitious – after all, I don’t have the looks nor the qualifications, plus my age – with all the external factors, I know that people will laugh at me. Perhaps people may think that I can’t get to a high position, but just like any other consummate actor, all we hope for is being able to play a good character that has a deep impact on audiences. What types of roles have this impact? Usually the lead roles, as those are the roles that get you recognized and have the most opportunity for development. There’s no reason for me to put myself down and say that I can never get to that type of position – others can say that about me, no problem, but I should never say that about myself – it’s important to have confidence!”

Not afraid of getting on a ‘sinking boat’

Even with the issuance of new free TV licenses at a standstill currently, Wilson still gets his salary from HKTV on time every month -- however he still very much dissatisfied with the sluggish manner in which the government has handled the matter: “I’ve never been to a place where there is only one active TV station and the other one is just a ‘shell’ – and I thought HK was supposed to be an ‘international’ and modern city? The reality is, a television ‘revolution’ and the issuance of more licenses is inevitable if we want to catch up with the rest of the world. Hopefully the government is able to handle this matter in a harmonious manner. It’s not about ‘eliminating’ any particular TV station, but rather it’s a matter of responsibility on the part of the government to promote the growth of the TV industry -- they shouldn’t be waiting until there are so many complaints and criticisms to issue the licenses. Having more TV stations and opportunities is supposed to be a happy thing!”

With HKTV not having its license yet, there’s a ‘risk’ that the boat might sink – towards this, Wilson expressed: “It has never been a concern for me – I still do my job of filming series. I can tell you that the morale of all my colleagues over here is very high and everyone from top to bottom is very united.” With the infectious unity and positive spirit that the HKTV team possesses, it’s no wonder that even Wilson himself was ‘moved’ to personally attend HKTV’s promotional rallies to pass out fliers: “Production is truly taken very seriously here and our boss is very willing to spend whatever money is necessary to achieve high quality filming. Majority of the series are filmed in real locations and even if sets need to be built, they are all ‘working’ sets. For example, when filming Three Sides of Shape Doctors, $700,000 was spent building a medical clinic set at the Shing Fung Film Studio – all the faucets had actual running water, the computers were all real and capable of going online, and we were able to plug our I-phones into all the working outlets to charge! Earlier, for the series Hakka Women (客家女人), we traveled to MeiZhou (in Fukien, China) so we could film inside a real life Hakka village! Real location filming allows both the cast and crew to more fully immerse ourselves in the filming, which results in a very sincere, high quality production for audiences.”


  1. Thanks for yet another great interview. Yr personal comment is always a great read and I agree with everything you mentioned.

    Yeah, can't remember seeing much of Wilson in the past decade or so. Obviously he played "daddy fish" in THC and I loved his performance.

    So him playing a doctor in CTI series is def. a must watch for me :)

    1. @exoidus: You're welcome and thank you!

      Yup, I was one of the people who loved Wilson's performance in THC, though I understand from the various feedback I had read that the reaction to his performance was mixed. Some people weren't used to seeing him playing a doctor and felt that he didn't 'look' the part - I actually fault TVB for that because of the types of roles that they gave him this past decade, since those are the roles that have been 'etched' in audience's brains nowadays. But for long-time TVB followers like me who has actually seen him play 'professional' characters in the past (and have seen him wear a suit and tie...LOL), he 'looked the part' just fine for me!

      I'm definitely going to miss not seeing Wilson in THC2 - he was one of my favorite characters from the series and for me, his performance was definitely a highlight....

      With that said, I also look forward to seeing Wilson play a doctor again in the HKTV series! Even though I'm not 100% sure what his role is going to be like in that series (since there weren't enough scenes of his in the trailer to tell), but from all the stuff I've read so far, it does sound more interesting than his THC role.

    2. I see, that was probably one of the few characters he has played as a professional during his long career in TVB. I can't remember seeing him as a doctor before, think he played a lawyer in "At the Threshold of an Era". I think he looked believable as a doctor and btw there is not a typical doctor look in reality, LOL.

      Glad he left bc if not there would be another great actor wasting their time in TVB. Have a feeling TVB will totally screw up THC2 so not planning to watch it.

      He is playing one of the leads so hopefully it will be much more interesting. I'm trying to keep updated on CTI news with regards to the free licences and saw this video with Wilson and some others.

      Looks pretty interesting :D

    3. @exoidus: Thanks for the link....I actually saw it already, since I've also been following alot of the CTI/HKTV stuff pretty closely. That particular clip was from the Three Sides of Shape Doctors end-of-filming dinner in which practically the entire cast and crew attended (saw alot of stuff about it on Weibo). The more I read about this series, the more interested I am in it!

  2. I'm glad Wilson Tsui left TVB, hope he gets more leading roles. I remember I started respecting Wilson's acting talent when he played a lawyer for a series. But that lawyer was more like a "Gangster Lawyer" and was the typical goodie two shoes kind. His role was very witty and interesting and really caught my attention. If CTI is will to give him a witty and funny lead role like Robert Downey Junior's Iron Man or Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock it'd be great!

    1. @sport3888: I agree -- Wilson is definitely capable of doing 'comical' type roles, as I've seen him in a few of those myself. I hope he gets the opportunity to do a comical role at CTI too!

  3. ooh, i'm very happy for wilson. both my mum and i like him a lot and we still call him "tin fook" (his character's name in plain love) to this day! my very favourite role of wilson's is jiu jik in golden faith, which is probably the series sport3888 is referring to. while i don't really remember much of the series' storyline, i do know that i absolutely loved his character.

    ffs, when is hktv going to get their license? i really want to watch their series!

  4. @bebeC: Me too -- definitely very happy for him! I actually have quite a few 'favorite' roles of Wilson's -- of course both of the roles you mentioned (Plain Love and Golden Faith, plus there are a few more that come to mind such as his roles in New Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre (1986 Tony Leung version), Greed of Man, Cold Blood Warm Heart, Plain Love II (liked both him and Deno in that series, even though both were technically villain characters), Seven Sisters, Catch Me Now, etc. etc.

    I'm hoping that HKTV will get their license soon too!